What causes employees — “whistleblowers” — to go outside the company to report a problem? The answer reveals how whistleblowing incidents can be avoided in the first place.
In many organizations, so-called whistleblowers are seen as disgruntled soreheads who run to a court or government whenever they perceive wrongdoing by the employer.
But extensive new research suggests most whistleblowers:
- don’t want to go outside the company to fix the problem, and
- are pushed to go outside because of supervisors who wouldn’t address the employee’s initial concerns.
In other words, if someone internally had just listened in the first place, the employer could have saved a lot of aggravation caused by whistleblowing.
Consider the data from a study funded by Dell and URS:
- Only about 2% of employees go outside the organization as a first reaction to perceived wrongdoing
- 56% of those who reported problems took their complaints to someone they knew and trusted inside the company, such as a direct supervisor
- Only about 5% of employee said they would engage in whistleblowing for the sheer monetary reward, and
- Whisteblowing tends to happen less often among companies that are struggling financially, suggesting that employees are reluctant to add to company problems at a time of financial difficulty.
Even when they’re wrong
One mistake some supervisors might be making: assuming complaints that are obviously off-base don’t need to be addressed.
Yes, employees can be wrong or mistaken. Still, they want someone to hear them out with a complaint about bias or harassment or safety.
In short, they don’t want their complaints to be ignored.